A Thousand Perfect Notes: heartbreaking, touching and beautiful
“An emotionally charged story of music, abuse and, ultimately, hope.
Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence. When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?”
I didn’t know much about this book when I was sent it, but having read the synopsis and the press release I knew it was one I needed to get to. Written by the brilliant CG Drews (or @PaperFury as I know her on twitter, go give her a follow) I was really curious to see what it was like, and my word I was NOT disappointed. It is something else.
A Thousand Perfect Notes tells the story of Beck, a pianist who is being forced to play by his mother. He doesn’t want to play the classical musicians she is making him play. He wants to play his own music. He wants to play what his heart wants him to. His mother was a pianist herself, but after she develops tremors she had to stop and this turns into her becoming obsessed over her son playing. She makes him play every morning and every evening, punishing him when he’s late. She’s abusive in all of the worst ways. This really tells on Beck’s confidence. She is an absolute piece of work. There’s a little ray of light in Beck’s life at home: his little sister Joey. She is brilliant. She keeps him going. She’s the reason he gets up every day. He knows that if he stops caring that Joey will then get mam’s wrath. One day, Beck is paired with a girl, August, in a school project and what ensues is an incredible story of hope, music and friendship.
The characters in this book are special.
– Beck is one of the bravest and subdued characters. He has this horrible duality of life – his horrid, abusive mother, and his gorgeous, bubbly little sister. He has to be the best big brother, making sure that Joey is fed, because mam doesn’t care. He just wants the best for his little sister. Joey is his life. Joey and the piano. He hates the piano. He hates that his mam makes him play. It’s his mother’s obsession, not his. He just wants to play the music his heart tells him to, not Chopin. When he does play his own heart and not Chopin, there are serious consequences.
– Joey is a brilliant ray of light in Beck’s horrible life. She makes him weird concoctions, weird sandwiches, keeps him going. She’s one of those lights on in a dark dark tunnel. She’s not oblivious to what is going on, but she’s young and innocent. She swears in German, fights with people, but she doesn’t know any better. That’s the example she’s had from her mother – that’s the behaviour her mother presents to her towards her brother, so she knows no better.
– Beck’s mother (or The Maestro as he refers to her) is one of those repulsive, horrific characters that YA produces (she makes me think of the step mother from Paper Butterflies). She is a downright piece of work. I hate everything about her. She’s manipulative. She’s mean. She’s abusive. She doesn’t deserve the brilliant kids she has. The scenes with mam in were hard to read.
– August comes along and slowly but surely changes things in Beck’s life. He is reluctant to her friendship initially. He doesn’t need anyone distracting him from his piano. This changes to he doesn’t want anyone to have to see The Maestro’s cruelty. August is a breath of fresh air in Beck’s life. She’s calm, she’s sweet, she cares. She wants to know more. She’s curious about this piano playing boy. She wants to get to know him. She becomes an anchor in his very rocky sea. I really love August. She accepts the fact that Beck’s life is shitty and doesn’t judge him for it. She’s his solace.
This is a gripping story, despite the many scenes that are hard to read. I wanted to keep reading because I wanted to know how Beck’s story would end. There are some horrific scenes of cold and hatred, but there are also some incredible scenes of warmth and love. Scenes with August and her family. Walks home after school. Scenes with Joey.
There’s a massive sense of duality in this book. So many comparisons between dark and light, cold and warmth, love and repulsion.
– Beck’s loneliness compared to the warmth and love he received from August.
– Beck’s very different relationships with his mother versus his relationship with his sister.
– The comparison between Beck’s very cold mother and August’s incredibly warm and welcoming family
– Beck’s passion for his own music and composing against his apathy towards playing others’ music
If you’re wondering where on the crying scale this would go, it goes at the VERY TOP. I cried SO SO SO much. This book broke my heart so many times. I can guarantee this will make you cry.
Please go out and buy this if you can. It is so heartbreakingly wonderful.